THE LION AND THE SAINT 141
The lion was so grateful, and became so much attached to his kind doctor, that he would not leave him, but stayed on in the monastery.
Now, in this house no one, from the highest to the lowest, man or beast, was allowed to lead an idle life. It was not easy to find employment for a lion ; but at length a daily task was found for him.
This was to guard and watch over the ass, who each day carried in the firewood which was cut and gathered in the forest. The lion and ass became great friends, and no doubt the ass felt much comfort in having such a powerful protector.
But it happened, on one very hot summer's day, that whilst the ass was at pasture the lion fell asleep. Some merchants were passing that way and seeing the ass grazing quietly, and apparently alone, they stole her and carried her off with them.
In due time the lion awoke; but when he looked for the ass she was not to be seen. In vain he roamed about, seeking everywhere ; he could not find her; and when evening came he had to return to the monastery alone, and with his head and tail drooping to show how ashamed he felt.
As he could not speak to explain matters, St. Jerome feared that he had not been able to resist the temptation to eat raw flesh once more, and that he had devoured the poor ass. He therefore ordered that the lion should perform the daily task of his missing companion, and carry the firewood instead of her.
The lion meekly submitted, and allowed the load of faggots to be tied on his back, and carried them safely home. As soon as he was unloaded he would run about for some time, still hoping to find the ass.
One day, as he was hunting about in this fashion, he saw a caravan coming along with a string of camels. The camels, as was usual in some places, were led by an ass, and to the lion's joy he recognised his lost friend.